Going back to natural hair was a return to my truth. Growing up as a black woman before the natural hair wave came about, having your hair relaxed or straightened was considered the norm to fit in. Back then, if your hair was in its natural state, you were one of the few and far in between. Many black women knew that relaxing hair often was not healthy for it, and because of the chemical treatment, hair would not grow past shoulder length. Women routinely subjected themselves to scalp burns from the relaxer, and the relaxer had damaging effects on their hair and health. Then in 2008, the natural hair movement became increasingly mainstream. So many of us said goodbye to relaxed hair and embraced our fros. And we could all relate to Rihanna when she said, “When I cut my hair, the whole sound changed, my style changed.” As natural hair become increasingly mainstream, so did the surrounding movement to protect it.
In 2019, Dove did a study for their Crown (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair) Coalition Campaign to end discrimination against black women’s hair. The results of the study found that 80% of female participants were more likely to change their natural hair to meet societal or work norms. The reason? To keep their jobs. The study also found that black women are 1.5 times more likely to be sent home, or know of a black woman sent home from the workplace because of her hair. This discrimination doesn’t end at the office: black students are routinely targeted and discriminated against for the state of their hair. Asia Simo was kicked off her high school cheerleading team because her hair could not go into a “half up half down style” like her teammates with straight hair. High school wrestler Andre Johnson had to cut his dreadlocks at his match or forfeit. The US does not currently have a federal law banning discrimination against black hair, however, there are several states that ban this form of discrimination.